Nobody thought much of it when Urban Diteman landed his
open cockpit monoplane in Jamestown in the middle of October back in 1929.
Diteman was known as the Flying Cowboy and just seemed to
be roaming around from his home ranch near Billings, Mont. A couple of
weeks later his name was in the headlines of papers around the world.
The Cowboy Pilot had bought a used airplane at St. Louis
the year before after he had shipped some cattle to market there. The record
seems a little vague about his amount of flying experience but some reports
said he had about 70 hours experience at the stick and was only licensed to fly
After he left Jamestown, he spent a day and night here
mostly hanging out with local pilots, he flew east to New York state and later
on to Harbor Grace in Newfoundland, Canada.
He told officials there he was researching maritime
records for information about a treasure left by Sir Francis Drake who he
claimed as an ancestor. Diteman was so enthralled with Drake he had named his
airplane the “Golden Hind” after Drake’s ship. He was actually waiting for good
On Oct. 22, 1929 Diteman took off from Harbor Grace. The
locals thought he was just going out for a sightseeing flight like he had done
several times before. It wasn’t until a local resident who had befriended
Diteman opened a sealed letter that they found out differently.
Diteman announced in that letter he was planning to fly
to London, England. The note also included instructions to hold his personal
effects, left in a hotel room, until he sent a cable from England. He must have
been a bit of a pessimist because the letter also said if no one heard from him
they should send the stuff back to Montana.
Diteman became the third man to attempt to fly across the
Atlantic Ocean solo. Charles Lindberg had been the only man to succeed. About
25 hours after Diteman departed, it became clear that Lindberg would continue
to hold that honor.
Diteman had rigged the Golden Hind with an additional
fuel tank that took up the entire second seat in the open cockpit monoplane.
His letter noted that he had enough fuel for 25 hours of flying which should
get him to London.
Everyone held out hope. The airfields around England even
left the lights on that night which was not a normal practice. Over the next
day most gave up hope.
The Golden Hind and Diteman were never heard from again.
A note in a bottle saying his plane was sinking in the middle of the ocean
washed up on the Irish coast but was never confirmed as authentic.
The Flying Cowboy made history, not necessarily in a good
way, and passed through Jamestown on his way.